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July 27, 2023

2023 healthcare prediction check-in: Virtual care expansion, behavioral health, and greater care coordination

With the U.S. public health emergency ending in May of this year, many are looking to the future of telehealth to gauge what solutions will hold their value in a post-Covid healthcare landscape. And as the halfway mark of 2023 quickly arrives, we wanted to see what early-year predictions are still ringing true.

According to Michael Gorton, CEO of Recuro Health, 2023 was predicted to be a big year for telehealth and telemedicine. As he said in his interview with Healthcare IT News in February, Gorton saw many executives embracing a “virtual-first” approach to care in 2023, with technology solving some of today’s top issues. Not to mention, said Gorton, payers and others would continue to place an emphasis on virtual behavioral health resources, while finding opportunities to further care access. 

We wanted to revisit Gorton’s predictions and see how Bright.md customers are using asynchronous telehealth technology to better the primary care experience for patients and providers. For instance, do today’s organizational technology solutions of choice really help alleviate providers of overwhelm, or have they instead driven clinician turnover? Have telehealth and virtual care solutions made an impact in addressing some of the biggest challenges facing today’s patients, like behavioral health resources and access? 

With the public health emergency ending and reimbursement details still unclear, how are today’s health systems choosing to use technology like asynchronous telehealth?

Let’s find out.

2023’s “virtual-first” approach to care

As predicted by Gorton, some of the industry’s biggest challenges this year would be addressed through a “virtual-first” approach—and in turn, with the right technology, organizations should experience improved access, outcomes, satisfaction, and quality of life for patients. Examples of these challenges, he said, include many of the same topics we have been discussing for years like addressing labor shortages among primary care providers, removing barriers associated with social determinants of health, and improving overall patient experience and outcome scores, which influence quality payment models.

“Given its current popularity and progress, virtual care will increasingly demonstrate its value and scalability to become the preferred healthcare delivery method for providers in value-based care,” said Gorton. 

Bright.md’s partners who provide our asynchronous telehealth solution to their communities can attest to the right technology’s ability to address issues like clinician shortages, overwhelm, and care access. When it comes to streamlining processes for today’s burnt out doctors, our customers are reaping the benefits of Bright.md’s ability to help manage care. Because we integrate into our customers’ EHRs, while automating the intake process and providing an after-visit care summary, provider time to deliver care is trimmed down to about two to four minutes on average between our customers. Not to mention, providers enjoy using the platform—customers often see provider satisfaction rates of 93 percent and above when delivering care through our asynchronous telehealth platform.

Telemedicine and greater care coordination

Integrations that lead to better care coordination was another trend predicted for this year. New virtual solutions, Gorton said, are being introduced and provide for more “complete and coordinated care” through services like virtual primary care, behavioral health services, care navigation, and more.

“On-demand access to in-demand health services is enabled through the most advanced IT, computing and mobile technologies across multiple communication channels, including real-time video and secure messaging,” he said.

Bright.md’s asynchronous telehealth platform isn’t just a simplified way for clinicians to treat low-acuity conditions; instead, we meet today’s demand for care access whenever and wherever patients want while also directing them to the right venue for care, the first time around. Through our digital front door, Navigate, patients are directed to the appropriate next step as configured by the health system, whether that be an on-demand asynchronous appointment, a scheduling tool, or the nearest urgent care clinic.

Within the past year, Navigate has guided more than 25,000 patients to care through our health system partners, helping to coordinate care among their teams. Not to mention, Navigate delivers on patient satisfaction and even new patient acquisition through its use—93 percent of health system patients found care options for their conditions through Navigate this past year, while 78 percent of interviews that originate from Navigate were completed by first-time users. In turn, Navigate engages new patients to the system while opening up overall capacity and lowering costs to deliver care by keeping folks with lower-acuity needs out of the ER or urgent care.

Greater focus on behavioral health and health equity

Lastly, Gorton looked to the role of telehealth and telemedicine in making progress against ongoing gaps in access to mental health support.As mental health issues become more socially destigmatized, we continue to see a surge in post-COVID-19 demand for professional counseling and therapy to address residual stress, anxiety, and depression,” he said. 

And although that is a good thing for overall population health, the demand for such services can severely strain staff while also exacerbating shortages among providers. “This…reveals a shortage of providers and other vulnerabilities of the behavioral health system,” Gorton said. “[There is] a need for a new generation of innovative virtual behavioral health solutions.”

With Bright.md, asynchronous care for mental health addresses gaps in access and wait-times, as well as hesitancy around face-to-face care by meeting consumers where they’re at. In fact, mental health is the second most-common search term for those seeking care through our digital front door Navigate, while 36 percent of patients choose asynchronous treatment for mental health more than other care options. With our anxiety and depression module being the fourth most-used module within our platform, Bright.md is helping our customers directly address today’s demand for discreet, secure, and comfortable modes of mental health care–and helping more patients start their journey to get care.

Virtual care, Gorton added, plays an important role in overcoming health inequities that can lead to barriers to care for some patients. “Access to quality, affordable healthcare is a fundamental human right, regardless of patient location, economic status or race,” he said. “The American Medical Association says telehealth has the potential to become an important tool to address longstanding health inequities in the historically marginalized racial and ethnic groups that have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

As for those in rural communities and other small towns, Bright.md directly opens up care access by eliminating transportation issues and other time constraints for those in communities that don’t have an in-person clinic or brick-and-mortar location.  Bright.md doesn’t require broadband access, and our patient interviews are available in English and Spanish. Ninety-eight percent of Bright.md patient users in rural or small towns said they enjoy the asynchronous clinical interview and consider their experience a positive one. 

With such high expectations predicted for telehealth in 2023, not all virtual care solutions can live up to the hype. However, patient and clinician users of Bright.md continue to experience the benefits of our asynchronous platform throughout this year–relieving clinicians of unnecessary administrative work, opening up access for patients, advancing equity, or streamlining care coordination. 

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